Researchers call for wind turbines to be installed under city bridges

Renewable power could be brought to city environments in droves with the installation of wind turbines underneath tall bridges and viaducts, according to new research by teams in the UK and Spain.

Using the Juncal Viaduct in the Spanish island of Gran Canaria as a model, the researchers determined that positioning wind turbines under such bridges was a viable way to generate power, with such installations suitable for both urban and rural areas.

By carrying out computer simulations of the air resistance in relation to the different configurations of wind turbine, researchers from Kingston University in London were able to determine the best combination of turbines, and, surprisingly, the largest turbines weren’t the best option.

“As natural, the more surface is swiped by the rotor, the more power can be produced; however, it was seen that in small turbines the power rate per square meter is higher”, explained Oscar Soto, a researcher at Kingston.

viaduct-wind-turbine-1

If the only consideration was power production, the best combination would be either two turbines of different sizes, allowing the space available to be used most efficiently, or a matrix of 24 little turbines.

However, once financial and practical considerations were taken on board, the researchers determined that the best combination was actually two medium-sized turbines.

Power output would vary depending on the bridge in question, but in the case of the Juncal Viaduct, the two turbines would produce 0.5MW, which is considered medium power for wind turbines.

“This would be the equivalent to 450-500 homes’ average consumption,” said Soto.

“This kind of installation would avoid the emission of 140 tons of CO2 per year, an amount that represents the depuration effect of about 7,200 trees”.

Image courtesy of José Antonio Peñas (Sinc).

Image courtesy of José Antonio Peñas (Sinc).

Published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the research is rather unusually being promoted by a company: ZECSA, based in Gran Canaria.

It has also involved two other universities in Spain, where teams have been tasked with researching different aspects of the concept.

Researchers at Vigo University have been working on the feasability of the electrical connections, while Las Palmas de Gran Canaria University’s team has been working on integration of the renewables.

Whether the idea becomes a reality remains to be seen, but with commercial backing, along with its inclusion in PAINPER, a project to boost the integration of renewable energy in infrastructure, prospects for the idea are looking good.

And with so many bridges and viaducts in cities across the world, the locations for such an installation are numerous.

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